How Tottenham’s resolve could shape QPR’s destiny this season
Floundering Spurs follow Saturday’s trip to Loftus Road with three more matches against sides at the bottom
The outcome of QPR’s clash with Tottenham on Saturday may not decide Rangers’ fate this season but the form of their London rivals will have a significant bearing on the battle at the foot of the Premier League table.
The fortunes of QPR and Spurs are becoming intertwined as the season enters its final weeks.
In the wake of their FA Cup semi-final humiliation by Chelsea, Tottenham – like QPR – are fighting to prevent their campaign falling apart.
And how Spurs react to the 5-1 lashing handed out by the Blues will have ramifications at both ends of the Premier League table.
Tottenham follow this weekend’s London derby with matches against strugglers Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and – perhaps most crucially – Bolton Wanderers, who currently hold two games in hand over QPR.
The two teams meet at the Reebok on May 2, three days after Rangers travel to Chelsea.
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With one league win in seven, Tottenham do not represent the formidable opposition of earlier in the campaign.
At one stage leading Arsenal by 10 points and sitting pretty in third, Spurs now trail their north London rivals by five points, despite the Gunners slipping to a shock 2-1 home defeat to Wigan Athletic on Monday night.
Their powers of recovery will be tested to the full at Loftus Road, where the Rs have recently found their best form, winning their last three games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Swansea.
A glance at the other matches this weekend highlights the importance of QPR making it four home victories in a row, with their nearest rivals all playing winnable matches.
Wigan travel to a Fulham side who, while unbeaten in three games, can only finish in mid-table, while Blackburn host Norwich, who were hammered 6-1 by Manchester City last weekend.
Wolves will have their fate all but sealed if they lose at home to Roberto Mancini’s title-chasers on Sunday, before, on Tuesday, Bolton travel to Aston Villa.
Saturday’s match pits together two teams who perform best in a 4-2-3-1 system. Redknapp, like his Rangers counterpart, has shied away from 4-4-2 for much of the season, with both managers finding their team outnumbered in the middle.
Brad Friedel should regain his place in goal from Carlo Cudicini. Ledley King and William Gallas started at centre-back against Chelsea, although New Zealand international Ryan Nelsen could feature, as could Younes Kaboul if he recovers from a knee injury.
Former QPR loan signing Kyle Walker has enjoyed a solid season at right-back, as has Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back.
The match could well be won and lost in central midfield, where Tottenham would appear to have the edge over Hughes’s side.
England skipper Scott Parker and Brazilian Sandro are likely to be handed deep-lying roles, allowing either playmaker Luka Modric or Rafael Van der Vaart to operate off lone striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
Jermain Defoe has found starting places hard to come by this season but has still managed 16 goals in 35 appearances, and could be called upon should Spurs find themselves behind at any stage.
Tottenham will ask plenty of questions of QPR’s back line, with arguably their most potent threat coming from Gareth Bale on the left wing.
The powerful Wales international has adapted his game this season, still dominating the touchline but also drifting into the middle.
The pace of Aaron Lennon on the right will pose a similar threat.
With QPR’s confidence and self-belief restored to a large extent by the manner of their recent home wins, much will depend on Tottenham’s state of mind as their season threatens to collapse before their eyes.
Both sides will line up knowing they cannot realistically afford to lose. Neither will, as it ends 2-2.
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